NeuriteTracer: an ImageJ plugin for automated tracing of neurites

In vitro assays to measure neuronal growth are a fundamental tool used by many neurobiologists studying neuronal development and regeneration. The quantification of these assays requires accurate measurements of neurite length and neuronal cell numbers in neuronal cultures. Generally, these measurements are obtained through labor-intensive manual or semi-manual tracing of images. To automate these measurements, we have written NeuriteTracer, a neurite tracing plugin for the freely available image-processing program ImageJ. The plugin analyzes fluorescence microscopy images of neurites and nuclei of dissociated cultured neurons. Given user-defined thresholds, the plugin counts neuronal nuclei, and traces and measures neurite length. NeuriteTracer accurately measures neurite outgrowth from cerebellar, DRG and hippocampal neurons. Values obtained by NeuriteTracer correlate strongly with those obtained by semi-manual tracing with NeuronJ and by using a sophisticated analysis package, MetaXpress. In addition, NeuriteTracer is able to detect the neurite outgrowth promoting capacity of the rho kinase inhibitor Y-27632. Our plugin is an attractive alternative to existing tracing tools because it is fully automated and ready for use within a freely accessible imaging program.

Pool M, et al., NeuriteTracer: A novel ImageJ plugin for automated quantification of neurite outgrowth, J Neurosci Methods (2008), Volume 168, Issue 1, Pages 134-139.

Examples of DRG culture images analysed by NeuriteTracer:


NeuriteTracer (zip file containing all components)
NeuriteTracer Manual
Sample image set (zip file)
Tutorial movie using the sample image set
Click here to download the morphology package for ImageJ containing the Lines8 plugin


NeuriteTracer is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

Copyright 2008-2012 Madeline Pool, Joachim Thiemann.
NeuriteTracer is distributed in the hope that it will be useful, but WITHOUT ANY WARRANTY; without even the implied warranty of MERCHANTABILITY or FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE.